1 John 1:5–2:6: Gospel
When I was in high school, our teachers and administrators organized a full week of events and activities designed to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving. One afternoon we were all dismissed from our normal classes so that we could participate in several activities to emphasize the dangers of driving drunk. The most interesting of these activities was the “drunk goggles” These goggles had special lenses that impaired our spatial reasoning, making it difficult to judge the distance from us to the things around us. The goggles made it hard to walk and impossible to shoot a basketball successfully. We all took turns driving a car slowly through orange cones set up in the school’s parking lot. We laughed at how silly we all looked as we were unable to do very basic things while wearing these glasses.
Now, for the moment, set aside the question of whether the drunk goggles were actually teaching us how much fun it was to have our vision and spatial reasoning impaired. (The kids who seemed to enjoy the goggles most were the kids who used to brag on Monday mornings about how drunk they got over the weekends.) The important point for our purposes is that these goggles provide a picture of how sin affects our perception of reality. Sin distorts and twists our ability to see ourselves, others, and even God correctly. As long as we wear “sin goggles,” we will never see things as they truly are.
John writes in this next section to clarify our vision with the meaning and importance of the gospel. In other words, he writes to remove the sin goggles from our eyes. John focuses specifically on the ways that sin distorts our understanding of reality, and he reorients us to see accurately who God is, who we are, and what our sin has made us in the sight of God. Then, he corrects two extremes in the way we mistakenly try to deal with our sinfulness. Pay careful attention to this passage, because if we miss John’s message about the gospel, our journey as disciples of Jesus will stall out before we even get started.
1. John writes, “God is light, and darkness is not in him, not at all” (1 John 1:5). In what specific ways does that news confront what you think about yourself? How does that news confront the way you live your life or the way you approach God?
2. When you speak about your sin, what kinds of things do you say to minimize your sin in the eyes of others (legalist)?
3. In the way you live your life, how do you minimize the importance of the law (libertine)?
4. John writes, “faithful he is and just, that he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do you tend to downplay the faithful grace of God in the gospel, or the just righteousness of God in the gospel?